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For Love or Money

For Love or Money(1963)

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"He was hired to mate them, but not to date them!" read the poster for For Love or Money (1963), a rare opportunity for Kirk Douglas to play in a comedy. In it, Douglas is Deke Gentry, an attorney who is paid $100,000 by millionaire Chloe Brasher (Thelma Ritter) to find husbands for her three daughters, Kate (Mitzi Gaynor), Bonnie (Julie Newmar) and Jan (Leslie Parrish). Also in the cast were Gig Young, William Bendix, and Dick Sargent, who would become famous to audiences as the "second Darrin" on television's Bewitched.

Written by Larry Markes and Michael Morris, and directed by Michael Gordon, For Love or Money came at the end of The Golden Age of Hollywood, when Thelma Ritter had become one of the outstanding character actresses, in films like All About Eve (1950) and Rear Window (1954). While her roles were normally limited to maids, mothers or unglamorous women, For Love or Money gave her the chance to be clothed, groomed and made up to the hilt. When the film debuted, women in the audience gasped at the luxurious gowns by Jean Louis. The Miami News wrote, "You should see what the hairdresser and fashion designer have done for Miss Ritter. The old gal sparkles with glamor." Mitzi Gaynor had been popular in the 1950s in musical films like South Pacific (1958), but by the 1960s, as Gaynor later said, "The movie musical thing was finished, the contract players were flooding the streets and I was just part of the backwash." Instead of retiring, she went back to the stage, becoming hot on the cabaret circuit and in Las Vegas, where she would tour with her shows for decades. While she has appeared on television, most notably in her own Emmy-winning specials, For Love or Money is Gaynor's last film to date. This was also one of William Bendix's last films. Bendix, who Kirk Douglas called "the perfect professional and a delight to work with," died of a heart attack the following year.

When For Love or Money debuted in New York on August 7, 1963, Judith Crist was one of the few who praised Douglas, writing, "Kirk Douglas proves himself an expert with a fast line and a comic situation," but most critics weren't impressed. Douglas was seen by most as badly miscast in a comedy and the problems of the idle rich no longer garnered the comic interest that they did during the Great Depression. The Pittsburgh Press summed it up as being"[A]ll so pretty, sleek and glittering. Too talky, though. If they'd all just shut up Money might be better. As one beatnik said to another, "Man, you opens your mouth and words come out, but you don't say nothin'."

SOURCES:

Manbeck, John B. and Singer, Robert The Brooklyn Film: Essays in the History of Filmmaking
Parish, James and Pitts, Michael Hollywood Songsters: Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing: A Biographical Dictionary
The Pittsburgh Press 23 Sep 63
Roof, Judith All About Thelma and Eve: Sidekicks and Third Wheels
Stoneham, Gordon "Gordon Stoneham at the Movies: Kirk Douglas Badly Cast" Ottawa Citizen 17 Oct 63
Thomas Tony The Films of Kirk Douglas
Toor, David "Rich Movie Poor in Comedy" Eugene Register-Guard 20 Dec 63

By Lorraine LoBianco

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